Falstaff, Opera by G. Verdi
At the ripe age of 80, Giuseppe Verdi tried his hand at opera one final time. In the endeavour, he reached out to his creative idol and faithful source text author, William Shakespeare. After the success of the dramatic operas Macbeth and Otello, the Maestro and the Bard would collaborate across the years once more. The result was Falstaff, a comedy based on several of Shakespeare’s works, put together into an exhilarating Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito. The premiere took place at Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 8 February 1893. Ticket prices were through the roof and the theatre was packed with aristocrats, celebrities, and wealthy connoisseurs. Standing ovations, numerous encores, and the crowd’s uproarious approval confirmed that Verdi was back. This season, Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice captures the Maestro’s comedic magic once again.
To produce the extraordinary success that was Falstaff, Verdi and Boito relied on parts of several different works by William Shakespeare. While most of the libretto comes from The Merry Wives of Windsor, prominent elements of Henry IV, Parts I and II, can also be found in the opera. The action focuses on Sir John Falstaff, an overweight narcissistic knight on the prowl to seduce two married ladies. On this immoral quest, he is driven not only by lust but also by greed, as he is broke and in search of fresh cash. Even though he thinks himself a very smart man, his ploys are painfully transparent, and his targets manage to outwit him every step of the way, turning the con right back at him.
Falstaff finds Verdi in top creative form. The Maestro’s adulation of Shakespeare shines through, and the opera captures the unique kind of comedy, for which the Bard is adored to this day. This fitting final point on a tremendous musical career awaits audiences at Gran Teatro La Fenice.